People come to Michigan’s Beaver Island for its abundant nature and solitude. With more than 100 miles of scenic roads, old two-track trails and beaches, it’s ideal for hiking and biking. Pristine woods welcome nature lovers for bird watching and photography, as well as sportsmen looking or hunting and fishing opportunities. Approximately 35 percent of the island, located about 30 miles north of Charlevoix, is state forest land.
Beaver Island Outdoor Adventure Ideas
Captain Michael Collins has been a full time resident and boat operator on Beaver Island for more than 25 years. The 28-foot vessel can carry up to six passengers. Sunset and harbor cruises, snorkeling and diving, lighthouse tours—you decide! Captain Collins can also drop you off at Northcut and High Islands.
Seasoned tour drivers will guide you through beautiful scenery while telling you why island life is so unique. Your journey on a 15-passenger van will take you through dunes and forests and alongside several pristine inland lakes, bays and beaches. Depending on the tour, you’ll also see the island’s two lighthouses. Tours range from a 1.5-hour tour of the northern end of the island to a more extensive 3-hour tour of the entire Island. Note that regular tour season for 2018 will begin on Memorial Day.
This slow-paced, guided bicycle tour takes riders along the north end of the island near the harbor. It’s family-friendly, covering about 3 miles over 1.5 hours. There are several stops along the way to hear about the island’s history as well as “beaver tales.” Longer tours are available. Use your own bike or rent one on the island.
Explore the outer islands of the archipelago such as High Island, Hog Island, and Squaw Island, on half-day or full-day excursions ideal for singles, couples, families, and groups. Learn the history of island lighthouses and former residents as you play a modern-day explorer in Northern Lake Michigan.
Kayak, stand-up paddle boards, and bikes are available to rent in the summer. Snowshoes, cross-country skis, and fat-tire bikes are offered in winter. Book a kayak and camping excursion (you choose the length of the trip), or sign up for a class including photography, fly fishing, snorkeling, and paddling.
Guided fly fishing and casting trips for smallmouth bass, carp and other species on Beaver Island and its surrounding islands make for some of the best flats-style fishing in the Midwest.
Kelly Day Charters is a DNR-licensed charter trolling service.
The water surrounding the island contains shipwrecks and other underwater scenery just waiting to be explored. Sign up for scuba instruction, snorkeling, diving classes, sunset cruises aboard The Resolute or outer-island adventures.
Beaver Island Vacation Tips
Visitors will find two established campgrounds on Beaver Island, both owned and operated by the Island Townships. There are no reservations at either campground and the primitive sites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Both campgrounds provide pit toilets and hand pumps. There are no showers at either facility, but Emerald Isle Hotel offers a dedicated bath, soap, and towels for $10 per adult and $5 per child. The campgrounds are open April 1 to the end of November.
Saint James Township Campground is located on the north end of the island off Donegal Bay Road. The campground and its 12 sites overlook Lake Michigan and Garden Island, with views of Squaw and Whiskey Islands. ($10 per night)
Bill Wagner Peaine Township Campground is located on the east side of the island. It’s seven miles south of the harbor and accessible via the East Side Road. This 22-site campground is on the shore of Lake Michigan with a view of the west coast of mainland Michigan. ($10 per night)
Beaver Island Lodge has been a host to visitors since 1950 and is one of many lodging properties on the island. Other noteworthy accommodations include The Brothers Place, a rustic Northwoods lodge originally built in 1928 as a retreat house by the Christian Brothers religious order, and Lazy K Farms Bed & Breakfast. The 60-acre horse farm is next to a 300-acre nature preserve, and only 2 miles from the harbor in St. James. You’ll likely see deer, turkeys, and Sandhill cranes as you venture down the long driveway. Chickens, ducks, cats, and dogs will welcome you to the property.
A variety of dining options can be found on the island. “The Restaurant” at Beaver Island Lodge offers a fine dining menu and extensive wine list. Shamrock Restaurant & Pub is a must-visit offering casual fare and a free game room for kids.
Getting to Beaver Island is Easy
The Beaver Island Boat Company runs from early April through December, with limited runs in the early and late season. The 32-mile ride takes approximately two hours.
More Northern Michigan Island Escapes
- Biking and Camping Grand Island’s Big Beauty
- Your Guide to the Best Mackinac Island Vacation
- The Keeper of Grand Traverse County’s Power Island
- Vision Quest: World Class Carp Fishing on Beaver Island
- A Family-Friendly Island Escape: 36 Hours on South Manitou Island
- Exploring the Lost Coast: An Extreme Bike Adventure on Drummond Island